Review - The Whispering Skull - Jonathan Stroud

The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co., #2)Title: The Whispering Skull
Series: Lockwood & Co
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Genre: Young Adult, Middle-Grade, Paranormal
Publication: August 28th 2014, Disney Hyperion
Pages: 400 Pages, Kindle
Source: Thank you to Netgalley and Disney Hyperion for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review! 
Rating: 5/5 Cupcakes!
In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn't made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood's investigations. Finally, in a fit of anger, Anthony challenges his rival to a contest: the next time the two agencies compete on a job, the losing side will have to admit defeat in the Times newspaper.
Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George's curiosity attracts a horrible phantom. 
Back home at Portland Row, Lockwood accuses George of making too many careless mistakes. Lucy is distracted by urgent whispers coming from the skull in the ghost jar. Then the team is summoned to DEPRAC headquarters. Kipps is there too, much to Lockwood's annoyance. Bickerstaff's coffin was raided and a strange glass object buried with the corpse has vanished. Inspector Barnes believes the relic to be highly dangerous, and he wants it found. 
The author of the blockbuster Bartimaeus series delivers another amusing, chilling, and ingeniously plotted entry in the critically acclaimed Lockwood & Co. series.
After reading the first book in this wonderful new series last year and loving it, I waited in eager anticipation for the sequel. When I was accepted to review this book via Netgalley I shrieked with joy! The Whispering Skull was just as chillingly fascinating as the first book, the characters even more spectacular and the book's atmosphere taut with suspense. I was gripped the entire way through. Jonathan Stroud has once again managed to create a fascinating story that will have readers wholly and utterly captivated and delighted to be a part of Lockwood's team again.

The Whispering Skull takes place 6 months after Lockwood & Co survived the night in the most dangerous, and the most haunted, of houses in England. They haven't had many cases come up, but then they get a visit from Mr. Saunders and his fidgety assistant Mr. Joplin with an important case of supervising, and securing, the excavation of a mad Victorian doctor who took part in chilling supernatural events. When the coffin is being excavated, a mirror with glass as black as ink and binded with a menacing presence is uncovered. Nobody realises the danger and terror that is yet to befall them...

The Whispering Skull was utterly fantastic, I didn't find it quite as hair-raising as the previous book, but there was definitely more suspense and more character development. It took me a while to catch my bearings, as I don't have the best memory, so I wasn't immersed straight away but soon after starting it the pace picked up and the plot began to thicken. I stayed up into the late hours of the night, trying to solve the mystery alongside Lockwood, George and Lucy and finding it hard to get to sleep as each time the chapter ended, I was left wanting more. There's something thoroughly intriguing about Stroud's books and once I finish a Lockwood & Co book, all I can think about is when the time will finally come where I can venture into another ghost-busting adventure with the tenacious trio.

One of the things I love about the Lockwood & Co books, fascinating plot aside, is the characters. I absolutely LOVE the characters in this series and the dry humour never fails to amuse me! I wholly adore Lockwood and his adventurous, inquisitive and gentlemanly nature and I sincerely wish that he weren't fictional as he would be such an entertaining character to be around. He is also somewhat of an enigma. He a has had an air of mystery surrounding him, since the first book, and we were revealed slightly more throughout this book and I think book three is going to contain some outright shocking revelations! I CAN'T WAIT! I need the next book. Now.

Lucy is also one of my favourite fictional characters. She's extremely real. She gets scared but she always overcomes it and is steadfastly brave and it's female character that I think a lot of people will look up to. She's incredibly snarky and stubborn and that makes her character even more fun to be with!

I utterly love George as well and I can relate to him in the sense that I love learning things, being in the library and reading about things is also some of my favourite things to do. George is quite complex, he has insecurities and I could feel he felt like a third wheel at times, which perhaps led him to doing something incredibly stupid with the mirror, just to prove that he could solve things and was capable of things just as good as Lockwood and Lucy.

The friendship between the three definitely developed in The Whispering Skull. There was some distrust among them sometimes and uncertainties but you can clearly see they will always be there for one another and there friendship is a beautiful thing that I've loved watching develop over the last two books and which I look forward to seeing in the following books. Lucy and George had quite a lot of tension in the first book and it was heartwarming to see how thoroughly they learned to care for each other in this book.

The plot was fantastic, as well! I wasn't expecting the outcome and there were some scenes that held such suspense that I couldn't tear my eyes away from my Kindle for a mere second - any distraction was an annoyance. I didn't find this book extremely frightening where the ghosts were concerned, but when Lockwood and Lucy were crossing the paths of dangerous criminals, well, they were the ones who made my pulse rate increase as I knew that Lockwood and Lucy would have a better chance surviving a dangerous type of ghost than they did with these monstrous people. There were scenes that made my heart pound vigorously in my chest, as well as constrict for fear of the characters' safety. The ending was extremely astonishing and I was clicking the next button furiously hoping fervently that that wasn't the way the book ended...but it was. WHY DO AUTHORS DO THIS TO US?! That cliffhanger was a cruel, cruel thing. That's a downfall of have to wait even longer for the next book.

I also love the way Stroud writes, he uses the perfect amount of description so that we don't feel completely overwhelmed, he writes action scenes impeccably, many action scenes are written in an awkward manner but Stroud excels at writing fast-paced scenes that completely immerse you and make you feel as if you were there with the characters. The humour in this book is also fantastic and I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions! 

Overall, The Whispering Skull was once again another fantastically written book by an incredibly talented author. With wonderful characters, a fast-paced, captivating plot line and snarky humour, all these things combined makes for an utterly hair-rising, heart-racing story that will have you at the edge of your seat. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone as I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I give it: 5/5 CUPCAKES!